42We talked a lot about achieving and maintaining the optimum stress levels, which keep you at your peak performance without pushing you into a burnout phase. All individuals have unique stress resilience levels and preferences, so it's never easy to find one's personal golden middle. However, it's one of your most important tasks, especially if you are in a leadership role.
Let's examine what happens with your decision-making abilities in a situation of intensive stress – exactly when it's most crucial for a leader to be at their prime.
Under normal circumstances, the brain's thalamus sends information to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational thinking and control, and to the amygdala, the emotional processing center. This is how the brain forms the needed mix of logical and emotional arguments, so that a person can make effective decisions in specific situations.
However, in a stressful situation when the amygdala senses danger (no matter if it's real or perceived) it triggers an alarm in the hypothalamus and impairs your prefrontal cortex – milliseconds before it has any chance to provide rational guidance. All this happens in favor of a faster reaction, even if not the most relevant one. You can see how this could present a problem in stressful situations, when irrational leadership decisions might impact entire organizations.
But there is also an unpleasant effect in the long-term. The more often the amygdala takes control in such situations, the more it develops: it creates better connections with other parts of the brain and it gets easier for it to overcome the neocortex. This makes you experience irrational episodes and panic attacks even more often.
What you can do against this is to follow the tips from our previous articles in the stress management series in order to tackle a specific situation or to improve your general stress resilience. And never forget that the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex inhibit each other in such scenarios, so if you manage to stop your internal panic and give yourself the necessary feeling of control, you'll improve the rational part of your decision-making process.
Best regards,

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